What to do with tofu?
It’s one of the most common questions that arises when faced with a block of soybean curd. Many a person has told me (sadly) “I don’ t like tofu”, usually followed up with such explanations as “It tastes bland” and “I don’t like the texture.”
This is kind of like complaining that you don’t enjoy the flavour of flour. Of course a bowlful of untouched whole wheat is a trifle bland. Just as flour is meant to be rustled up into batter, baked into brownies, crafted into cakes and whisked into the base for a batch of waffles, tofu needs love. More explicitly, it needs to be seasoned.
The concept of seasoning varies greatly. Some recipes consider a ‘spicy’ dish to be one in which an extra dash of paprika (oooh! Living on the edge!) has been passed over the closed pot cover.
In my world, a basic tofu involves dicing, sprinkling with fresh-ground salt and pepper, rubbing in fresh (grated) garlic and thyme, and adding either a splash of lime or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, then tossing in flour and pan-frying (i.e., in an iron skillet, and with not too much oil, but enough that it doesn’t stick, and is nicely crispy).
I learned how to appropriately season food as a teenager, when, on Thursday afternoon, we would return home from a giant shopping trip with several raw chickens, all of which needed to be cleaned and seasoned immediately. (For the record, the experience of having to shove my hand up the nethers of an entire chicken had a lot to do with why I bowed out of chicken-eating when I launched out on my own. That and the Night Of The Purple Chicken in my dorm-dwelling days. But, different story.)
One of the very handy things about vegan cooking is that seasoning is a breeze. If you’re not sure whether there’s enough salt on your tofu, or if you should add more curry powder, just taste it raw, and adjust as needed. Also, sticking your hand up a block of tofu is considerably less gross.
This “recipe” is a variation on that basic theme. I ran out of garlic (gasps!) and decided to experiment with onion. It’s more of an anti-recipe, because, well, it’s not really normal for me to cook (well) with a notepad in one hand, a pen in the other, a third hand stirring the pot, and a fourth snapping pictures. Even though I usually try to provide recipes, I’m actually a firm believer in general instructions. I learned to cook by watching and being told “sprinkle some on … no, a little more than that” rather than by following recipes religiously.
So here’s a general idea of how I make my Curried Tofu Bites, sans measurements, because frankly, I’ve never measured for this dish, and you shouldn’t either. These little nibbles are quick and tasty, and while they don’t mind being marinated, they also work being tossed together and cooked on the spot. These passed Fella’s I Don’t Like Tofu taste test, so much so that even when he’s having something else and I’ve made just enough for me, his fork still seems to find its way into the dish for a helping or two.
Curried Tofu Bites
Oil (I prefer Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Sunflower Oil)
Whole wheat flour
1. Break tofu into bite-sized pieces. You can also slice or dice it, but breaking it gives a more interesting texture, and a less overly-ordered eating experience.
2. Season with salt and pepper. I favour fresh-ground versions of each.
3. Sprinkle on a bit of thyme.
4. Finely grate onion over tofu, and rub in. The onion (along with the oil, to be added shortly) form the moisture for a light ‘batter’ that helps the flour to stick, so don’t be too stingy.
5. Sprinkle a bit of curry powder over.
5. Lightly drizzle a bit of oil over the mixture, and rub in. If you have time, set aside to marinade until ready to cook. If you need to eat now, carry on!
6. Sprinkle with whole wheat flour and mix until all tofu is covered.
7. Heat a bit of oil in a pan, at medium. When hot, pan-fry tofu until nicely browned, turning to ensure all sides are cooked.
8. Drain on a paper towel, and serve!